GET IN MY BELLY! That single line runs through my head whenever passing by or eating at this popular restaurant. Only a block below India Street, in heart of San Diego's Little Italy, Underbelly is one of this cities' delicious ramen spots. Only in San Diego, where 60 degrees is considered freezing, could a restaurant be deliberately designed to have most of its seating outside. I actually think that there is more seating outside than there is inside. It's been raining on and off all day, and we're expecting it to be super busy, as San Diegans tend to seek warm food when the weather turns sour. So after turning the corner, we aren't surprised that this place is poppin'!
Underbelly has a really unique design, in that it is almost completely made of glass windows that open and rotates outward horizontally, creating a bar that wraps around much of the restaurant. This functional design helps with seating since the interior is quite small, actually cozy is better word; cozy and friendly.
We make our way through the entrance, stopping in front of the bar which is only two steps inside. The bartender, who also takes the orders, greets with a friendly "How's it going guys?" Every time that I come here, the staff has always been so genuinely friendly and easygoing, while still maintaining amazing service that wouldn't be expected from a place so busy and so small.
Taking only a quick minute, debating if I want to add any additional toppings to my ramen, I order the Underbelly Ramen. @SDJigger orders the same. I would say that the Underbelly Ramen is the standard bowl, being one step above the Tonkotsu Ramen, but still smaller than the Belly Of The Best Ramen Bowl. It's the perfect size and has the perfect toppings for a good lunch on a mild rainy San Diego day. However, if you're craving more, there's a list of toppings that can be added to your bowl. And, the bowls are large, so the sky is the limit for the amount and type of toppings to add.
Handing us a metal number, the bartender apologizes for the lack of seating outside due to the rain as he scans the restaurant for open seats. No worries! We can see that the sky looks clear. It doesn't look like it'll rain anymore. So we decide to wipe down two chairs and sit outside.
We wait for our ramen as the sun breaks through the clouds and warms our backs. The air smells like fresh rain and ramen.
After only a minute, the only other employee that I can see working, gives us a friendly smile and a "Hi guys!" as she sets down the condiments in front of us. She quickly explains what each one is, then lets us know that at Underbelly there are no spoons. If we want to drink the broth, we have to tip the huge bowl up to our face and slurp away. I can see she loves telling people this part, just to see their reactions. She smiles again and lets us know that the ramen will be out in a minute or so.
After a only minute, she returns carrying two massive, steaming, mouth-watering bowls of ramen. She hands us the bowls saying, "Enjoy! If you need anything else..." then walks off to help another couple sitting nearby. GET IN MY BELLY! I say to my bowl of ramen goodness. My mouth waters. The broth looks like liquid gold and smells like heaven. The pork belly and sausage are glistening pink. The seaweed is a vibrant emerald green, and I can smell the subtle aroma of ginger. I look over to say something epic and profound to Jigger about how this must be the food of the gods... He's already inhaled the sausage, pork belly and is going at the hard boiled egg like Hungry Hungry Hippos!
I was trying to have a foodie moment! Haha.
Although, can't blame him. I can't believe that I've lasted this long with the bowl in front of me. Picking up my ramen eating weapons, I attacked the bowl with the speed and ferocity of a thousand spider monkeys!
Eventually, my eating slows as the bowl's size gets the better of me. Even at the point of being full, I find myself unable to stop eating. It's just so good. With a good amount of ramen, broth, and an egg still in my bowl, I think that no human could finish the whole thing. I turn to Jigger to see if he agrees that finishing the entire bowl is a feat of strength.
His bowl is empty...
There isn't even any liquid left. Nothing, not even those little flakes from the seasoning that should be at the bottom or around the sides. How did he?....What in the....?
"I LIKE THEIR RAMEN" he says.
Their ramen IS good, so good! And, it's not only that their ramen is good. It's their vibe, the spirit of the restaurant. It brings pleasure to the ramen gods. The friendliness of the staff and the unique design of the restaurant makes you feel good. It makes you happy to be eating their ramen, and slurping their broth. It makes you full and happy. It makes you want their ramen, makes you want to like there ramen. It's just ramen goodness that needs to BE IN MY BELLY.